Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do You Know What You Don't Know?

Five years ago when I began writing this blog, I told you why I believed focusing on your competent advantage TM was a great way to build and sustain your career. I've since learned that my "attraction" to competence may have something to do with me being a Type 3 according to Enneagram ... but more on that another time.

My fascination with competent advantage TM also comes from my work in Human Resources / Training & Development, observing how managers have used competencies to determine:
  • Who gets hired
  • Who gets fired
  • Who gets promoted
  • Who gets training - and on what skills/topics
In today's New Normal, I think there are benefits to "going back to basics" to revisit this theme of competence. One framework about how we learn that has always intrigued me was proposed by renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow - known as the Four Stages of Learning. I've listed the stages below with some insights to help you consider each stage, and how it might relate to your learning and achieving your goals in light of recent challenges/changes:
  1. Unconscious Incompetence: "I don't know what I don't know." You don't even recognize that you need to learn how to do something.
  2. Conscious Incompetence: "DING! Lightbulb goes on!" Now, you've just realized that you need to learn how to do something.
  3. Conscious Competence: "I know that I'm doing it." You've just started to learn how to do it, and you're very aware as you keep practicing to get better at doing it.
  4. Unconscious Competence: "It's a no-brainer!" You don't even think about it anymore -- you do it automatically whenever needed.
In today's New Normal, I believe it can be very helpful to use this framework to prepare yourself for new experiences, and figure out the best (and, perhaps, the quickest) ways to learn new things or enter new industries and markets. Here's a brief activity to help you:

Think about one skill or talent -- something that you do very well. Then, ask yourself four questions below to help you recall the four stages (insert your skill/talent in the spaces):
  1. How did you realize that you needed to learn how to _____________________?
  2. How did you find out what you needed to know/learn about _______________?
  3. How did you practice and improve your ability to ___________________?
  4. How do you _______________ now -- in ways that you don't even think about?
When I begin a new project, if I feel any anxiety about it, I ask myself similar questions to recall other times that I've been successful doing it. This not only boosts my confidence, but helps me think of tips, techniques and methods that worked before that I may be able to use again. Does this make sense to you?

So, do you know what you don't know? How will you figure out how to learn it? Share your comments, thoughts and reactions here -- or tweet me on Twitter.

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